Good morning and welcome to this celebration of the Holy Eucharist for Sunday, September 26. We’re so glad you’re here!
Our service will begin at 10:30am. Feel free to download the liturgy and pray along with us here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yt6zSx5Tx8uWan9avPjMdl1uCBFN9KLk/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=109139682576804738549&rtpof=true&sd=true
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
In our reading from Ephesians this morning the Apostle Paul is begging us to lead a life worthy of our calling. You and I and we have a calling, a vocation. And just what is that calling? It is the calling of the gospel itself. It is the calling to live into the peace and the unity that Jesus has created among us.
Our reading this morning begins with a “therefore.” That’s an important word. It means that everything Paul is about to say depends on what he has already said. So, in order to understand what Paul is saying this morning we need to familiarize ourself with what has come before.
There we find that Paul spends the first half of his letter reminding the church of all that God has done for them in Jesus. And just what has God done for them in Jesus? Alright, get your pencils ready, here we go. God has blessed us. God has chosen us. God has adopted us as his children. He has redeemed us, forgiven us, and lavished his grace upon us. He has revealed his will to us, given us an inheritance, and marked us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.
And then he gives us an image. He says, “Look, you were dead and then Christ made you alive.” You were dead through the sins in which you once lived. There was a time, Paul says, when you simply lived according to the grain of the world, when you followed the desires of your sinful nature, and because of this you were under the wrath of God.
But, because of God’s great love, even while we were dead in sin he made us alive together with Jesus. And when you or anyone at all trusts in him then all of the benefits of his life and work are yours.
Paul is speaking to a mixed group here. He’s speaking to both Jews and Gentiles and he’s reminding them, this is what Christ has done for you. Christ has reconciled you to God and to one another. Where previously there were walls, where previously there was division, where previously there was hostility now, in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ, there is reconciliation and peace.
Furthermore, Paul’s prayer for the church is that this reality would sink down deep into our hearts and minds and souls and become the defining reality in our own lives (1:15-23). Not just as individuals but as a community.
And it is a matter of historical record that this did become one of the defining characteristics of the early church. It was one of the things that set them apart from the wider Roman culture. For example Justin Martyr, who lived in the second century, wrote, “We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”
So, this is the foundation that Paul lays in the first half of his letter before he changes gears slightly in the reading we heard this morning. I want you to really understand that, because the “therefore” that we hear depends entirely on the grace of God.
“Therefore,” says Paul, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” In other words, he wants us to believe the gospel and live accordingly. Think of it this way, ask yourself, would my life still make sense if Jesus hadn’t of been raised from the dead? Do I still think of my finances the way my neighbour does? Do I still treat my enemies the way my neighbour does? Do I still respond to adversity and trials the way my neighbour does? Paul is calling us, imploring us, begging us to live in a way that only makes sense if the gospel is true.
So, what’s it going to require from us? Paul names three virtues: humility, gentleness, and patience. If we’re going to live up to our calling we need to practice these virtues. Just look at the culture, consider the level of popular discourse. Would you describe it as humble? Gentle? How about patient?
For example, think about contemporary politics. Many commentators have observed how politically we are becoming increasingly polarized and at odds with one another. We’ve been seeing this play out most recently with respect to COVID. And I don’t think I need to tell you how this polarization has ravaged families, friendships, and yes even churches. Many of you know this by observation if not by experience. Contemporary political discourse makes enemies out of friends and family.
But understand this, where contemporary political discourse makes enemies out of friends and family Jesus makes friends and family out of enemies. Let me say that again, the world makes enemies out of friends and family but Jesus makes friends and family out of enemies.
That’s just who Jesus is and what he’s done. That’s his gift to us and to the world. But because naturally speaking we would be enemies we need to practice humility and gentleness and patience in order to live into this gift. Humility, gentleness, patience—that’s what love looks like in our present cultural moment. And Jesus is calling us to live this way and to make every effort to maintain the peace and unity that he has won for us.
Every effort. In other words, this is going to cost you. You’re going to give it some effort and then just when you think you’ve reached the end of your rope you’re going to have to give it some more effort. We are called to exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of this peace and unity.
Why? Because this is just what God has done for us in Christ. Look at the Cross! There is the humility and gentleness and patience of God with us! There is God’s every effort to love us and to make peace with us, and not just us but the whole world.
He wants the whole world to know this good news! And in order for that to happen he is calling us, and Paul is begging us, to live into it. To live our lives like Jesus really is risen from the dead. To live like the gospel is really true. That’s what it means to lead a life worthy of your calling.